NASHVILLE, TN — The number of people applying to be police officers in Nashville has dropped by more than 50 percent since 2010. The Metro Police Department says the scrutiny officers receive keeps potential candidates from applying.
“If a bad act happens or something controversial is caught on tape, it’s presented as ‘the police,'” said Deputy Police Chief Damian Huggins. “That effects every police officer in every police department across the country.”
Metro police have received 4,792 applications in 2010. This year, they’ve received 2,136, which is a 56 percent drop.
Huggins says young people aren’t choosing the profession for a number of reasons – the scrutiny, the economy is competitive, and many families don’t want their loved ones to become officers.
“They do look for validation in what they do from their closest friends and family. I think that’s difficult in today’s environment,” said Huggins.
Also, there’s the pay. Many Metro officers can’t afford to live in Nashville.
The starting salary in the police academy is about $39,000 per year. That number increases to approximately $48,000 when an officer hits the streets without a trainer.
A recent study shows a person needs to make $70,000 per year to live comfortably in Nashville.
“It has to be at a point where officers don’t have to move out of county to serve your community, which has become a consideration,” Huggins told News 2.
“I don’t think cities do a good enough job of supporting government workers and providing incentives when they can,” said Jackie Sims, with the activist group Community Oversight Now.
The group created and advocated for Amendment 1, which passed in Nashville in November. Amendment 1 creates a community oversight board that will investigate complaints of police misconduct.
Sims told News 2 she believes more people will apply to be police officers when the board is up and running.
“There is so much negative press centered around policing in America. We’ve got to turn that around, we’ve got to look at policies and procedures and rethink them.”
She also believes the negative press surrounding policing is on the bad apples committing the bad acts.
However, the Fraternal Order of Police said the scrutiny they’re under is unfair.
“People who would be good candidates for police officers are seeing that officers are doing their jobs, what they’re trained to do and in the confines of the law and they’re being criticized and scrutinized for it,” said James Smallwood, President of the Nashville chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Smallwood said Metro police already does a good job of getting rid of the bad apples within their department.
Both sides agree that police officers don’t make enough money.
“It’s on the city to make sure those salary and benefits are comparable to risk that’s taken in this job and if it’s not, people aren’t going to do it,” Smallwood said.
The Metro Police Department has 1,429 sworn officers and another 60 in training. The department is currently hiring.